Analysis of the influence of natural religion on the temporal happiness of mankind
- Publication date
- Natural theology
- London, R. Carlile
- Digitizing sponsor
- Book from the collections of
- University of California
"The work of [George] Grote, founded upon ... written material committed to him by Bentham." - Dict. nat. biog
Written by George Grote; revised and expanded by Jeremy Bentham.
- 2009-07-13 13:49:45
- ABBYY FineReader 8.0
- Possible copyright status
- Worldcat (source edition)
- Full catalog record
Subject: An outstanding psychological analysis of religion
The author of "Analysis of the Influence of Natural Religion, etc." hit upon a good stratagem.The state Church was enraged against persons who expressed a belief in a creator deity but who did not accept the validity of the revelation of religious truth by supernatural means, as in a scripture. Instead, they asserted that reason by itself could lead one to religious truth--that there is a "natural religion" that one can discern without supernatural aid.
The author of the work under discussion declared that his criticisms were directed only at such natural religion, and that they were not intended to apply to revealed religion such as Christianity. He thereby evaded persecution as an opponent of the state religion.
another tactic, used generally by freethinkers, was to publish their works anonymously, under a pseudonym, or under the name of a dead author. The Philip Beauchamp who is named as the author of this book is fictitious. The book was written by George Grote using material supplied by the social reformer Jeremy Bentham; their relative roles in the work are uncertain. The result was one of the greatest works of free thought, and the most penetrating analysis of the psychology of religion until Ludwig Feuerbach's "The Essence of Christianity" (which complements, rather than supplants, the book under discussion).
the authorbegins by defining religion as belief in a deity who will dispense "pains and pleasures" to human beings during a post-mortem existence. Even before this definition he starts his exposition of the sophistry of the religious by noting that they call good effects of their systems "religion" while bad effects are called "superstition" or "abuses."
The psychological analysis starts by pointing out that religion, as defined above, leads people to act so as to curry favor with the deity who, if displeased, will inflict fearsome punishments. By analogy with the relations found between powerful and weak persons, the god will be conceived as requiring "the most unqualified subservience" and fulsome flattery.
Turning to the effects of religion, the author demonstrates that specifically religious practices cannot be beneficial to people's earthly life. He observes that threats of post-mortem punishment have little effect in deterring people from committing evil. He concludes that public opinion is the agent by which the positive effects attributed to religion are actually obtained.
The second part of the book is a "catalogue of the various modes in which natural religion is mischievous." "Useless privations" such as celibacy and "abstinence from cleanliness" are one class of mischiefs. Antipathy toward those who do not share one's beliefs is another. The author demonstrates that religion perverts morality. He shows how it "disqualifies the intellectual faculties for purposes useful in this life" (a point that has present-day importance, as religious interests strive to replace public schools with religious schools). The work concludes with a statement of how the priests created by religion are "a class of persons incurably opposed to the interests of humanity," and an explanation of why this sacerdotal class naturally allies itself with aristocracy for the joint purpose of "prostration and plunder of the community."
Uploaded by Unknown on